It’s been a while since I updated, hasn’t it? That’s due to a number of factors. I spent most of February travelling around doing workshops for the Not for Profit Network, and adding to my collection of travel horror stories (like having my flight from Perth cancelled, hanging round there for hours in stinking heat, and getting home to Melbourne – via Brisbane – 12 hours after I was supposed to…) In March I took on a temporary second job with one of our member foundations on my day off and so March and April went by in a blink. I also had a run-in with someone who was being less than honest with charities and attempting to extract large sums of money from them, which took up a lot of time. May has been mostly spent travelling around doing workshops – both some regular ones for my job, and contracted ones for the NSW government – and I also got very sick, necessitating a whole week off work.
I enjoy giving workshops. I love the buzz in the room and I love hearing from people about what they’re doing and the projects that they want to get up. I always come away from a workshop with a performance high and some good feedback to bask in. I usually end up feeling quite restless after them because there’s all that energy coursing through my system.
But workshops are absolutely exhausting. That initial high leaves within a few hours and I’m left feeling tired and empty, and usually with several hours’ travel to get to my next destination (or to get home). People who travel a lot for work will know how draining it is. Even when you’re sitting in an airport, you can’t really relax; you need to be alert for announcements and changes, and just making sure that you’re on the ball. Even in your hotel room, you’re making sure you know where you have to go the next day, that you know how to get there, that your handouts are in order, that you know where you’re going to get dinner and what time the breakfast room opens, etc. And you’re lonely. Even if you have friends in that city, you’re usually too weary and voice-sore to be much company.
In the spirit of understanding that travel for work is Not Fun, here are my strategies for coping with work travel. These are mainly appropriate for someone in a similar situation to myself – travelling for work but on a budget, and maintaining a relative level of professionalism whilst still remaining sane.
Clothes need to be as trouble-free and comfortable as possible whilst still looking professional, which is quite difficult. I prefer not to wear suits for travel, because they are too easy to wrinkle; I also do a lot of my workshops in regional towns and a suit makes you stand out too much. I favour Traveller’s Pants from Taking Shape, which are flattering, comfortable, easy to pack and pretty wrinkle-resistant; if they wrinkle you just shake them out. For the top, I have some inexpensive cotton/lycra fitted shirts in darkish colours which don’t wrinkle or stain easily, and team that with a decent cardigan, or with a short trenchcoat if it’s winter. If I am travelling to a hot area (which I often do), I wear a sleeveless tank under a thin cardigan.
Comfortable underwear and decent socks that aren’t tight are essential. Pantyhose are complete crap to travel in. Those quick-dry undies and socks are brilliant – even if you’re only going for two nights, take only the quick-dry ones in case you get delayed or something. If you’re in Perth or Darwin in summer and your flight ends up being cancelled, it’s so nice to have clean stuff to change into. You can wash them in the sink, roll them up in a towel and stamp on them, and then they’ll dry in a few hours.
Dark pants and shoes are best. I always have a black base (shoes, pants and cardigan/coat) and then stick to one other colour for all my travel stuff (usually purple for winter, and green for summer) so I know all my stuff will coordinate – earrings, necklace, scarf, etc.
Have a toiletries bag ready packed and waiting to just be bunged in the suitcase with small amounts of stuff you use all the time. Mine contains deodorant, travel toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, contact lens lotion, spare contact lens case, comb, sunscreen, moisturiser, “feminine hygeine” products I don’t bother taking my own shampoo; I travel so much that I just swipe the wee ones from hotels and use them, provided they smell OK. I don’t swipe the hotel soaps, because they almost invariably smell really strongly perfumed – unless you’re staying in a really nice hotel
Body lotion is especially important, because when you travel you’re usually on your feet all the time and your skin gets really dry; nails tend to break from hauling stuff around all day, so take a nail file.
In your carry-on luggage you’ll need to have any medication you need. As well as my regular medication I include the following:
- ibuprofen (or preferred headache remedy)
- travel sickness tablets (invaluable to stop the plane-banking nausea and headache I get)
- immodium (you’ll hardly ever use it but a day will come when you are awfully glad you packed it; take it in carry-on because it’s really agonising to need it during the “fasten seatbelts for landing” times!)
- assorted other remedies (I have an aromatherapy roll-on remedy for headaches and one called “Buzz” which wakes me up; also Bach Rescue Remedy and a pure saline nasal spray)
Create an itinerary for yourself containing all the information you need for the trip – flight numbers and times, hotel addresses and numbers in case you need to call them, where your appointments are and when and instructions on how to get there. Have printouts of all the e-tickets and bookings. Copy the whole lot and have a spare copy in the suitcase just in case.
And have something comfy to change into – even if it’s only a pair of old tracky-daks and a comfy T-shirt. If you’re going to be hanging round a hotel room gutsing room service and watching TV, especially after a hard day, you want to be as comfortable as possible.
As far as getting work done on the road goes, nothing beats my Eee PC. It’s as small and light as a laptop gets, only cost me $500, and its inbuilt wireless means I can check email in most airports and plenty of hotels; the only accessory I’ve purchased for it is a tiny USB mouse and a memory card which lives in the PC and contains all my files. Also remember to bring chargers/power cords.
Drink lots of water. Plane flights and airports really dry you out. Avoid alcohol and disgusting airline coffee.
And my last travel tip: have a “weary but cheery” attitude. It makes talkative fellow travellers leave you alone to rest your voice, but it’s pleasant for friendly taxi drivers and that nice bloke at check-in who just might slip you on an earlier flight.
Optional extras for the paranoid: quite possibly I have seen too many episodes of Air Crash Investigation or am influenced by having a partner whose job involves aircraft accident investigation, but when I fly I always do a few things aimed at my accident survivability. I wear closed-toe shoes, preferably sneakers, so that burning jet fuel in the event of a crash doesn’t burn my exposed feet and stop me getting out; and I carry a bottle of water and a bandanna so that I can douse the bandanna with water and wrap it round my nose and mouth, thereby avoiding some of the poisonous fumes from burning plane materials. Remember, people, most plane accidents are survivable